A few days away from UFC Rio, Brazilian athletes participated in an afternoon party this Tuesday the 23rd, as part of a UFC in the Community initiative held at Nobre Arte Academy, located in Rio de Janeiro’s Cantagalo community. Minotauro, his brother Minotouro, Junior Cigano, Vitor Belfort paid a special visit to 60 youths between the ages of 6 and 12, seeking to sway them to take the path of having sport in their lives.
Received like heroes, the UFC fighters addressed the merits of having values like discipline, dignity and desire to win. As they walked through the streets of the community they were greeted on numerous occasions and asked to take pictures with the residents countless times.
Vitor Belfort, who has trained at Nobre Arte academy in the past, left a message for the youths: “Twenty years ago I arrived here at this academy with the dream of being recognized, mainly in my country, and I’ve made it even farther than that. Dreaming is an endless journey, desire comes and goes. Fight for your dreams. Sport is one of the keys to life, we also need to win our daily battles, having dignity, manners and respect,” the fighter advised.
Belfort (left) and his boss, Dana White – himself once a boxing coach / Photo: Vitor Belfort
Led by Cláudio Coelho, one of the greatest boxing coaches in Brazil, Nobre Arte has been teaching boxing to local residents of the Cantagalo and Pavão-Pavãozinho communities of all ages for the past 21 years. Such big-name MMA fighters as Royce Gracie and Vitor Belfort have trained there. The NGO created the project “Meninos do Boxe” (“Boys of Boxing”) in 1996, later adding an educational complement for children and teenagers, with the aim of producing upstanding citizens. “The idea for this project arose 21 years ago. Its aim is to integrate the poor communities on the hill with the upscale neighborhood below, to occupy the time of these youths at a critical juncture in their lives by providing them with a healthy and educational activity, while monitoring their performance at school,” explains Coelho.
Seated on the academy ring, the children awaited the speeches the fighters had for them. Minotauro, who will fight Brendan Schaub at UFC Rio on Saturday, was pleased to be able to take part in the effort. “It’s a pleasure to see how successful this academy has been as a place providing kids discipline and respect. It doesn’t just encourage sport but education as well.”
To Junior Cigano “anyone involved in fighting knows Claudio Coelho’s story, especially his work with children.” The heavyweight fighter spoke a bit about his own life story. “It wasn’t easy on me either. My dream was to be like Minotauro and Wanderlei Silva, guys who inspired me. I have to continue believing and working. Always believe in yourselves,” he said.